On this day…29 June

On 29 June 1923 Joyce arrived in Bognor for a holiday.

Joyce stayed in Bognor in the south of England from 29 June to 2 August 1923, and during that time developed some of the early sketches for his new work. At the same time, Harriet Weaver began typing the drafts from Joyce’s manuscripts.

Joyce’s year was not going very well. He had made a start in March on his first bit of writing since finishing Ulysses a year before, but had also suffered a bout of conjunctivitis. In April he had an operation to remove several teeth and to deal with abscesses and cysts in his mouth, and this was followed by another operation on his left eye. His recovery was slow, and it was only on 10 June that he finally got his new false teeth.

Joyce arrived in London on 21 June where he stayed for a week before moving on to Bognor. Joyce enjoyed his stay at Alexandra House hotel on Clarence Road, despite an early thunderstorm, but he felt the waiting staff were a little too anxious to clear the tables and he complained that the electric light in the bedroom was switched off every night at 11.

Things were suddenly looking up for Joyce as Harriet Weaver gave him a gift of £12,000. She also offered to type up his manuscripts for him, and on 19 July he sent her a sketch about King Roderick O’Conor and asked her to type it up in two copies. The following day he sent another piece but this time asked if she could make three typed copies of it. Apparently, Joyce had changed rooms at the hotel and had lost a sheet of his writing. He asked that Weaver keep one of the three copies for herself, so that there would always be a complete set of his writings somewhere in case he lost any more.

That request was the beginning of Harriet Weaver’s role as the archivist of Finnegans Wake. Her final collection of manuscripts, typescripts, galley and page proofs forms a comprehensive record of the process of the book’s development from its earliest stages in 1923 to the first publication of the book in 1939.

By the end of July, Joyce was complaining to Sylvia Beach about continuing problems with his eyes and teeth. On 2 August he sent Weaver his sketch of ‘Berkeley and St Patrick’ for typing, and the following day he left Bognor for London, en route back to Paris.


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I, edited by Stuart Gilbert, London: Faber & Faber, 1957; vol. III, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.